Code of Conduct Appendices

Appendix A – Behaviour Code

The Behaviour Code for Parliament can be found here (PDF PDF 37 KB).

Appendix B – Definitions of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct, taken from the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme Delivery Report [1]

Bullying and harassment (Delivery Report, pages 46 to 49)


2.1 There are many definitions of bullying and harassment and both terms are often used interchangeably. The definition for harassment below reflects the definition set out in Section 26 of the Equality Act 2010. The definition for bullying below is based on classification provided by ACAS. These definitions will be used for determining whether any behaviour reported under this policy and procedure constitutes bullying or harassment.

2.2 All behaviour that does constitute bullying or harassment is a breach of the Behaviour Code. However, not all breaches of the Behaviour Code would constitute bullying or harassment. When alleged incidents of bullying or harassment are reported under this policy, any investigation will assess whether or not the incidents constitute bullying or harassment.

What is harassment?

2.3 Harassment is any unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct that has the purpose or effect of either violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them. Under the Equality Act 2010, harassment is related to one or more of the relevant ‘protected characteristics’ which include age, sex, race, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

2.4 Sexual harassment is qualitatively different from other forms of unacceptable behaviour, including bullying and non-sexual harassment. There is a separate Sexual Misconduct policy and procedure for dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct and more information about reporting incidents under both policies can be found in clause 2.15 of this policy.

2.5 Harassment may be persistent or an isolated incident and may manifest obviously or be hidden or insidious. It may take place in person, by telephone or in writing, including emails, texts or online communications such as social media. Harassment through social media could involve a serious one-off incident but is more likely to be the result of a sustained on-line campaign.

2.6 Harassment can be intentional or unintentional. For example, if a person speaks or behaves in a way that they do not find offensive, but that another person does. The key is that the words or behaviour are unwanted or unacceptable to the recipient. The purpose or effect of the unwanted conduct violates the recipient’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

2.7 A person may also be harassed even if they were not the intended ‘target’ of harassment. For example, a person may be harassed by jokes about a religious group that they do not belong to, if these jokes create an offensive environment for them.

2.8 Harassment associated with different protected characteristics may be quite different in nature and may relate to more than one protected characteristic. Examples of harassment, other than sexual harassment, may include, but are not limited to:
• Deliberate exclusion from work activity or conversations;
• Sending or displaying offensive material in any format (including posters, graffiti, emails, messages, clips or images sent by mobile phone or posted on the internet);
• Mocking, mimicking, belittling or making jokes and comments about a person (or a group stereotype) in relation to their age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation;
• Use of unacceptable or inappropriate language or stereotypes relating to race or ethnicity;
• Deliberately holding meetings or social events in a location that is not accessible for an individual with a disability;
• Using profanities or swearing that could have the effect of intimidating a person.

What is bullying?

2.9 Bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour involving an abuse or misuse of power that can make a person feel vulnerable, upset, undermined, humiliated, denigrated or threatened. Power does not always mean being in a position of authority and can include both personal strength and the power to coerce through fear or intimidation.

2.10 Like harassment, bullying can take the form of physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct but does not need to be related to protected characteristics. Bullying behaviour may be in person, by telephone or in writing, including emails, texts or online communications such as social media. It may be persistent or an isolated incident and may manifest obviously or be hidden or insidious.

2.11 Examples of bullying may include, but are not limited to:
• Verbal abuse, such as shouting, swearing, threatening, insulting, being sarcastic towards, ridiculing or demeaning others, inappropriate nicknames or humiliating language
• Physical or psychological threats or actions towards an individual or their personal property;
• Practical jokes, initiation ceremonies or rituals;
• Overbearing or intimidating levels of supervision, including preventing someone from undertaking their role or following agreed policies and procedures;
• Inappropriate comments about someone’s performance;
• Abuse of authority or power, such as placing unreasonable expectations on someone in relation to their job, responsibilities or hours of work, or coercing someone to meet such expectations;
• Use of unfair sanctions in relation to disciplinary or attendance procedures;
• Ostracising or excluding someone from meetings, communications, work events or socials;
• Sending, distributing or posting detrimental material about other people, including images, in any medium.

What does the law say about bullying and harassment?

2.12 In some cases, acts of bullying or harassment can be civil offences, which can be brought to an employment tribunal or county court.

2.13 In some cases, conduct that amounts to bullying and harassment may also amount to criminal offences, which can be tried in the criminal courts. There is not an exhaustive list of acts of bullying or harassment that may constitute a criminal offence. Examples may include, but are not limited to:
• Physical assault;
• Making violent or death threats;
• Stalking;
• Hate crimes.

2.14 Clauses 2.16 and 2.17 of this policy contain more information about how this policy and procedure deal with criminal investigations into conduct that may also amount to bullying and harassment.

Sexual Misconduct (Delivery Report, pages 74 to 76)

3.3 Sexual misconduct incorporates a range of behaviours including sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, voyeurism and any other conduct of a sexual nature that is non-consensual or has the purpose or effect of threatening, intimidating, undermining, humiliating or coercing a person. Sexual misconduct is used to describe the range of behaviours that will be treated as a potential breach under this Policy and Procedure, encompassing behaviours that may or may not also be defined as sexual harassment or sexual offences in the context of civil or criminal courts. However, using the language of sexual misconduct makes it clear that the Policy and Procedure for Parliament is separate from and additional to any court processes.

3.4 For the purposes of this policy, although it may not be illegal to pay for sex, in line with best practice it is considered unprofessional, inappropriate and a breach of the Behaviour Code, if this occurs whilst individuals are acting in a parliamentary capacity or engaged in activity connected to their membership of the Parliamentary Community both in the UK and overseas.


4.1 Harassment of a sexual nature is defined in the Equality Act 2010 section 26 (2) (3). A non-exhaustive summary that covers the majority of what is meant by the term is: unwanted behaviour that is sexual in nature or draws attention to sex in an unwanted way. The law around sexual harassment is grounded in a rights framework; sexual harassment offends the universal right to work in a dignified, safe environment and not be subject to discrimination.

4.2 Forms of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct may also constitute criminal offences under a range of legislation, including, but not limited to, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and national legislation in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Potential criminal offences include sexual assault, sexual assault by penetration, rape, harassment, stalking or ‘revenge pornography’.


The following behaviours may constitute sexual misconduct if they occur inappropriately or without explicit full and freely given consent.

5.1 This non-exhaustive list provides examples of broadly escalating severity in the categories of verbal, non-verbal/environmental and physical sexual misconduct. However, impact and trauma will be felt differently by those experiencing sexual misconduct.

5.2 Verbal—sexual remarks including those about appearance or clothing, jokes, catcalls, questions about sexual life, raising sexual topics, verbal advances, etc.
• Asking personal questions about sexual or social life or offering unwanted personal information about own activities.
• Remarks that draw attention to someone’s sex in an inappropriate or unwanted way.
• Enquiring about sexual history, fantasies or preferences.
• Making sexual comments about a person’s clothing, anatomy, or appearance.
• Obscene phone calls of a sexual nature.
• Repeatedly propositioning someone.
• Subtle or overt pressure for sexual activity, including requests or demands for sexual favours and promises of reward in return.
• Threats of reprisals if requests for sexual activity are turned down.
• Treating someone less favourably because they have rejected or submitted to unwanted sexual conduct.

5.3 Environmental/Non-Verbal—displaying pornographic or sexually explicit material, sexist comments and pictures on social media, stalking, image-based sexual abuse such as up-skirting, revenge porn, deep fake porn, etc.
• Obscene texts, emails, notes or letters of a sexual nature.
• Inappropriate gifts of a sexual nature.
• Inappropriate advances or stalking via social media.
• The circulation or displaying of pornography.
• Sharing private sexual materials of another person without consent.
• Repeatedly propositioning someone in writing.
• Repeatedly following or tracing the movements of another person without good reason.

5.4 Physical—suggestive looks and gestures, staring, leering, threatening behaviour, brushing past someone, pinching, touching, groping, promises/threats related to career prospects in return for sexual favours, etc.
• Uncalled-for physical contact, deliberate brushing past. Unwelcome and inappropriate touching, hugging or kissing.
• Groping, grabbing, kissing or fondling without consent. Indecent exposure (masturbation, nudity) and acts of voyeurism or exhibitionism.
• Attempting to or engaging in sexual intercourse or a sexual act without consent.


[1] Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme Delivery Report, published July 2018.